Security assistant calls for change after ‘crush’ at Birmingham students’ union, where students are employed as Door Staff

A security guard working at the University of Birmingham’s students union has said he is concerned students could be seriously harmed at the venue if more isn’t done to keep students safe.

Josh, which is not his real name, was on shift when a student night took a worrying turn at the Guild of Students.

“We had lots of people crushed, we had someone have a rib injury, lots of people hyperventilating. I heard that someone had to be pulled out of the crowd just to get out of the situation,” he told ITV News Central.

He described it as “the event of the year”, with lots of tickets sold, and noted that “it was very busy in the room”, with lots of excited students there to see its headline act.

“But then disaster broke out.”

Students were told the Fab’n’Fresh event run by the Guild of Students on Saturday 11 November would be ‘bigger’ than ever.

But it resulted in people saying they had been “trampled and crushed” as calls were made for compensation.

This photo from the night shows the Underground Club room in the venue packed with students. The Guild later offered refunds for the 1,600 tickets sold.

The Guild of Students is the biggest employer of students on campus – and trains students to provide security at its events held here.

Louis Wright, who is a fourth year student at the university, has been investigating the incident for the university’s student newspaper, Redbrick.

He told ITV News Central the young woman who suffered a rib injury in the crowd that night made a full recovery – but said it was frightening.

“I think just the fact it happened in the first place, is enough to scare anyone really,” Louis said, before adding: “It breeds this atmosphere of ‘are we really the priority here?’

“I think that’s what I want to amplify, that students for the Guild of Students, don’t seem like the priority.”

Security assistant and student Josh, which is not his real name, said there should have been anti-crush barriers on the night of the incident and more security staff on shift.

He hopes this new term will bring with it safer events, and said he’d like to see “metal detectors or turnstiles, because a lot of people can push in and not get counted in.”

Josh said he thinks there should be more vigorous training for student security so they can better cope with escalating situations.

For his training as a ‘security assistant’, he said he was given a presentation, an information pack, and a shadow shift.

The security assistant recounted the extent of his security training to ITV News Central: “We all gathered in a big hall and we all went through a slide show and then we were given a questionnaire – just to make if we were paying attention to what had been said.

“And when we were filling out the questionnaire they were sort of reading out the answers to us, so some people could have easily passed it even if they weren’t paying attention.”

SIA (Security Industry Authority) training isn’t compulsory for Guild security staff – but they do offer to pay for students to undertake the more intensive course. Josh said he thinks it should be compulsory.

He said: “I think if everyone was SIA-trained they would have the knowledge of how to deal with events like the night of the crush.

“It would raise the quality of the staff – you would get people working in security that actually want to keep people safe rather than those who are just looking for some work.”

Louis and Josh have said they are speaking out because they want students to enjoy nights out there safely in the new term.

“I work at the Guild – I want to see it succeed,” Josh said.

He adds: “But I think it also needs to look after its students and for people to know what went wrong that night in order for something like that to happen again.

“It could have been a lot worse but it should have been a lot better.”

If things don’t improve, Josh said he can’t see himself “in an environment like that”, before adding: “I would not be happy working somewhere where they do not care about their students.”

But he does believe the Guild cares about its students, noting that they’ve “taken steps” since the incident.

“I think they just need to take a few more to get to a safer environment. I think getting more members of security in the night, so we feel safer,” he said.

Josh added that the Guild has done a ‘review’ of its practices, and says he’s seen anti-crush barriers being used since the incident.

He said: “I think they are increasing staffing too, so they’ve at least reviewed the situation but because events haven’t started yet this year I haven’t seen them fully implemented.”

ITV News Central put these criticisms to the Guild of Students, which is run separately to the University of Birmingham.

In a statement, the Guild said: “Following the incident that took place at Fab on 11 November 2023, an investigation was actioned immediately which included consultation with both students and staff.

“A detailed report of its findings is due in the coming days.

“We are committed to delivering any improvements proposed by the report, which will be reviewed by the Guild Emergency Management Team before being discussed and actioned by the Health and Safety Committee.”

A students union is the hub of the university experience, run by students, for students. The Guild in Birmingham supports 36,000 of them – but Josh and Louis have said more needs to be done to make sure it is safe to socialise there.

Source – ITV